This post was sponsored by Sagebooks. All opinions are mine and mine alone. 

Okokokokok. I lied.

There isn’t only ONE key to success with Sagebooks. Like all things in life, there are many ways to do well with Sagebooks and to master the 500 characters. (If you want to see how I’m doing with my 4.5yo son, follow along with us here.)

But you know what is the common thread amongst ALL of the ways people successfully finish all 5 sets of Sagebooks?


That’s right. Consistency.

It’s the opposite of sexy and glamorous but you know what? Consistency gets the job done.

Look. I wish there were some magic wand I could wave in your general direction and POOF! Instant mastery of the 500 most common Chinese characters in children’s literature!

But alas, it is not so.

[socialpug_tweet tweet=”How do you #eatanelephant? One bite at a time. There’s a reason why @Sagebookshk separates the series into 5 sets of 5 books, each with 20 characters. This way, you constantly feel as if you’re #makingprogress (because you are). ” display_tweet=”How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time. There is a reason why Sagebooks separates the series into 5 sets of 5 books, each with 20 characters. This way, you constantly feel as if you’re making progress (because you are).”]

Unless your kid has a photographic or eidetic memory or is some type of language genius (sorry folks, odds are against you), it’s going to take time and repetition for your child to learn all 500 characters – let alone Chinese in general.

Long Term Memory vs. Short Term Memory

We’ve all experienced studying for finals and trying to cram in a semester’s worth of knowledge the night before because we wasted our college education by having fun and hanging out with people (let’s call it advanced networking). How much of that information did you retain? At best, you remembered enough to pass your exam, but unless you somehow changed your spots and reviewed the materials regularly after, I bet all that cramming resulted in ZERO THINGS LEARNED.

Also, now is not the time to tell me you were an excellent student and studied daily and thus banked a semester’s worth of learning in your long term memory and were able to later apply this knowledge in more advanced classes and didn’t have to relearn (okokok re-cram) and are now awesome at life because you were not only smart but diligent and had good study habits.

Mostly because 1) I don’t believe you and 2) if for some reason it’s TRUE (liar) then congratulations! You’ve just proved my point and no longer need to read the rest of my article. (Except you love me and find me astoundingly brilliant, interesting, and incredibly good-looking so you will continue reading out of kindness and FOMO.)

Help Memory Retention

Didn’t I just talk about this? Kinda.

Just like you didn’t keep much of the stuff you crammed in the night before a final, you likely have a hard time remembering things you don’t use on a regular basis.

How many times have you had to re-learn how to do a thing because the last time you did it was just long enough for you to forget how to do the thing but not long enough for you to forget that you learned how to do the thing?

Just me?


Oh. Ahem.

Anyhow, the same thing with your child and Sagebooks. With my second child, I was super inconsistent when going over Sagebooks with her. I would perhaps remember to go over the lessons once or twice a week.

Since my daughter already knew a lot of the characters, we could zoom through relatively quickly. But when it came to characters she didn’t know, it was frustrating to see her learn it only to forget it when we reviewed a few days later. We ended up starting and stopping and restarting several times before I finally got the hint and gave in to the inevitable consistent, daily review.

Defeat Feeling Overwhelmed

I’m going to be honest. Despite my having gone through Sagebooks twice before with my older children, I still felt overwhelmed. When you look at the sheer number of characters your kid is supposed to learn by the end, it’s super intimidating. If you also factor in the relative young age of your child (some people start at 2.5 or 3 – I shudder at the attempt), THIS IS A SUPER HUGE ASK.

However, when you’re consistent, you end up breaking a big goal down into smaller, more manageable bites.

How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.

There is a reason why Sagebooks separates the series into 5 sets of 5 books, each with 20 characters. This way, you constantly feel as if you’re making progress (because you are).

Can you imagine getting a gigantic tome of 500 characters and then screwing up the willpower to start? And how S-L-O-W one lesson out of 500 would feel?

Look, I had a hard enough time starting Sagebooks with my oldest when I only had the 5 sets of books, I can’t even calculate how long it would have taken me to screw up the gumption to start if the book was the size of a phone book.

How Can You Be Consistent?

I know. It’s easy for me to tell you to be consistent. (I keep hearing it in a tiny, buzzy voice saying, “Beeeeee consistent!”)

But it truly can be easy. Here’s how:

1) Take 5- 10 minutes a day to go over one lesson – even when traveling.

Seriously. 5 minutes. 10 minutes if your kid wants to keep going.

[socialpug_tweet tweet=”It’s the opposite of sexy and glamorous but you know what? #Consistency gets the job done. #sagebookshk #teachkidschinese” display_tweet=”It’s the opposite of sexy and glamorous but you know what? Consistency gets the job done.”]

Don’t take more than that for 3 reasons: a) No one likes an overachiever, b) if it’s longer than that, you will tell yourself it’s too much work and not do it, and c) it’s tempting to skip the next day because you went so long today.

Don’t give yourself any excuses. 5 minutes. You can do 5 minutes. Teach your kid when they’re pooping if you have to.

2) If you stop, there’s no shame. Just start again.

Look. we get it. Life happens. I mean, last week, I totally fell off the Sagebooks wagon. I understand.

Get over it.

Don’t shame yourself. It’s no big deal.

Doesn’t matter if it’s been a few days or a few weeks or a few months (or even a few years). Just pick up the books and start where you left off.

Don’t overthink it.

If your kid doesn’t remember some characters, don’t stress about it. The beauty of Sagebooks curriculum is that it builds upon itself so you’ll find out pretty quickly what characters they forgot. Then, when you find out, you can review those.

Also, you may find that if it’s been months or years, your child is now older and developmentally faster and can now sit still for longer stretches of time as well as recall more abstract characters. If that’s the case, then just tell yourself you did it on purpose because you were taking child development into account and BOOM! Instant reframe and instead of a failure, you’re a genius.

Let me reiterate. When you stop and start again, it’s because you’re a genius.

3) Have short term goals.

Break that elephant into small bites! (Am I mixing metaphors again?) Have weekly goals. Write it down. Tell people about it.

Not only do you get the high of reaching so many goals every week, you’ll get on a streak of wins and be loath to break that momentum.

Before you know it, 18 weeks of short term goals have passed and your kid has 140 characters under their belt and you’re 28% through Sagebooks. (PRAISE ME, PLEASE!!!)

4) Get accountability.

There’s a reason why many successful people have accountability partners. It’s because when we have to check in with someone else, it’s harder to brush off your goals. (Thank you, shame and people pleasing!)

You don’t have to join the Sagebooks HK Parent Support Group on Facebook, but if you use it, your fellow parents pushing towards the same goals will encourage and support you when the going gets tough. (And it always gets tough.) Plus, we have weekly goal threads and believe it or not, it helps!

I have found myself rushing to complete or hit certain goals all because it seems a bit embarrassing to be the host of the Facebook group and fail so publicly.

5) Celebrate your success.

Do you have a sticker chart for your kid? Are you using outright bribery? (I’m all for bribery.) Are you proud of yourself for your consistency and thus, your child’s geniosity? (I mean, come on. We all know we’re the reason our kids succeed at something.)


I mean, isn’t this entire post an ode to how great a feat I’ve accomplished? (Oh, that’s not what you got out of it? Clearly you’re reading the wrong article.)

All jokes aside, be proud of yourself and your child. It takes work – even if it doesn’t always feel like work.

Celebrate your success.

Alright. Go and be consistent with Sagebooks (or whatever Chinese curriculum you choose). Tell me in the comments how you were consistent in another area of your life and how you succeeded.